Douglas Durian

(215) 898-8147
(215) 898-2010
  • Professor of Physics, University of Pennsylvania (2004- )
  • Professor of Physics, UCLA (2002-2004)
  • Visiting Scientist, Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences (2002)
  • Visiting Scientist, Universite Louis Pasteur (2001)
  • Associate Professor of Physics, UCLA (1998-2004)
  • Visiting Scientist, Institute for Theoretical Physics (1997)
  • Visiting Scientist, Elf-Aquitaine/CNRS Laboratory (1997)
  • Assistant Professor of Physics, UCLA (1991-1998)
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Exxon Research and Engineering (1989-1991)


My honors are:

  • Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer (2003-2005)
  • Fellow, American Physical Society (2005)
  • Member at Large, APS Topical Group on Statistical and Nonlinear Physics (2005-2008)
  • Editorial Board, Journal of Statistical Mechanics: Theory and Experiment (2007-present) 



Ph.D. Cornell (1989)
A.B. The University of Chicago (1984) 

Research Interests: 

My general research interests are in the area of "soft matter physics": the structure, dynamics, and macroscopic behavior of a very broad and general class of materials that are typically noncrystalline and composed of macromolecules such as polymers, liquid crystals, surfactants, or biomolecules. This growing field complements solid state and statistical physics, and has considerable overlap with disciplines of chemistry, chemical engineering, materials science, and even biology. A common theme in soft condensed matter is that while the materials are disordered at the molecular scale and homogeneous at the macroscopic scale, they usually possess a certain amount of order at an intermediate, or mesoscopic, scale due to a delicate balance of interaction and thermal effects. The general goal is to determine this structure and its dynamics, how it arises, and how it influences the macroscopic behavior. This is obviously of great practical interest, since almost all matter we encounter in our everyday lives is a form of soft condensed matter. This is also of great fundamental interest since while we understand the physics controlling the behavior of individual atoms and molecules, and the physics controlling the behavior of macroscopic chunks of matter, we are relatively ignorant of the complex connection between these well known limits and completely new and unexpected behavior often arise. Since the mesoscopic structure of many forms of soft condensed matter strongly scatters visible light, they appear opaque. My current research takes advantage of this multiple light scattering property for noninvasive study of opaque materials such as foams, emulsions, colloidal suspensions, granular media, and biological tissues that are inaccessible to traditional measurement techniques. From the average intensity of diffusely transmitted light we can monitor details of the mesoscopic structure, while from fluctuations in the transmitted intensity we can monitor motion within the structure itself. As applied to foams, for example, we can now address stability issues directly in terms of the evolution of the structure formed by the dense random packing of gas bubbles. We can also address the unusual mechanical properties of foams, namely how they can support shear stress like a solid but also flow and deform arbitrarily like a liquid, directly in terms of the deformation and random stick-slip hopping of local clusters of bubbles from one tightly packed configuration to another. Since a great deal is already known about the atomic structure of liquids and soap films, but not about how soap bubbles aggregate to form a chunk of condensed matter, this work will provide the missing link to a fundamental understanding of foams in terms of their structure at length scales ranging from atomic all the way up to the macroscopic.

Selected Publications: 
  • A. S. Keys, A. R. Abate, S. C. Glotzer, and D. J. Durian, "Measurement of growing dynamical length scales and prediction of the jamming transition in a granular material", Nature Physics 3, 260-4 (2007).
  • H. Katsuragi and D. J. Durian, "Unified force law for granular impact cratering", Nature Physics 3, 420-3 (2007).
  • K. Feitosa, O. L. Halt, R. D. Kamien, and D. J. Durian, "Bubble kinetics in a steady-state column of aqueous foam", Europhysics Letters 76, 683-9 (2006).
  • D. J. Durian, H. Bideaud, P. Duringer, A. Schroder, F. Thalmann, and C. M. Marques, "What is in a pebble shape?" Physical Review Letters 97, 028001 (2006).
  • R. Bandyopadhyay, A. S. Gittings, S. S. Suh, P. K. Dixon, and D. J. Durian, "Speckle-visibility spectroscopy: A tool to study time-varying dynamics", Review of Scientific Instruments 76, 093110/1-11 (2005).
  • R.P. Ojha, P.-A. Lemieux, P.K. Dixon, and D.J. Durian, "Statistical mechanics of a gas-fluidized particle," Nature 427, 521 (2004).
  • A.D. Gopal and D.J. Durian, "Relaxing in foam," Physical Review Letters 91, 188303 (2003).
  • J.S. Uehara, M.A. Ambroso, R.P. Ojha, and D.J. Durian, "Low-Speed Impact Craters in Loose Granular Media," Physical Review Letters 90, 194301 (2003).
  • P.K. Dixon and D.J. Durian, "Speckle-Visibility Spectroscopy and Variable Granular Fluidization," Physical Review Letters 90, 184302 (2003).
  • I.K. Ono, C.S. O'Hern, D.J. Durian, S.A. Langer, A.J. Liu, and S.R. Nagel, "Effective temperatures of a driven system near jamming," Physical Review Letters 89, 095703 (2002). 


Courses Taught: 

Phys 101: General Physics: Mechanics, Heat, Sound

Phys 102: General Physics: EM, Optics, Modern Physics

Phys 421: Modern Optics